What is Occupational Therapy?

    •    A 9-month old baby is not making eye contact when being spoken to. Is the issue physical? Are the eye components all working properly and in conjunction? Is it auditory? Does the baby understand where the voice is coming from? Is it social/ emotional? Is the baby having an emotional response to being looked at?  
    •    A 4-year-old boy can't put on his own socks. Is the issue sensory-based? Does he not like the feel of his socks? Is it a fine-motor issue? Does he not have the finger dexterity to manage the task? Or maybe he needs the attention he gets from Dad when he can't do it?
    •    A kindergartner is still in pull-ups. Is it psychological? Is the child fearful of a specific aspect of toileting? Is it sensory? Does the texture of the toilet seat feel too slippery against his skin? Is the echo in the bathroom overwhelming? Is there a motor-coordination issue involved?
    •    A 7-year old is experiencing difficulties in school. She is not following the commands of her teacher. Is it environmental? Are the sounds of the classroom overwhelming? Is it emotional? Is the child acting oppositional to compensate for a learning disability? Is it attentional? Does the child have trouble staying focused on the directions?

When a child exhibits delays in mastering typical activities, or shows unusual or disruptive behavior, an occupational therapist is often the first professional to be called upon. Occupational therapists take a holistic approach to a child's specific situation by considering physical, sensory, psychological, social, cultural and environmental factors that may affect functioning. They then develop a plan of intervention that works to strengthen the child's development and attain the highest level of independence and functioning possible. Communication with the parents and caregivers as well as with the school (if the child is attends school) would also be critical for the success of this plan.

Occupational therapists use purposeful activity to achieve improved function. Based on the child’s needs, the therapist may work on gross and/or fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills, visual motor control, sensory motor skills and sensory integration, cognitive skills, and activities of daily living, among others.  Therapy with children often includes play, using activities that are specific to the intervention.  For example, sensory integration therapy may use activities that allow the child to use touch or taste, or to swing, spin, jump, and climb.  Whereas a focus on visual perceptual may use activities that encourage a child to make sense and interpret what they are seeing: word-searches, block building designs, puzzles and mazes. Fine-motor therapy might involve the use of the pincher grasp, finger isolation and crossing the mid-line. Therapy may include activities that help develop turn-taking skills, empathy, social engagement, following directions, cooperative play, non-verbal communication, etc. The ultimate goal will be to have a well regulated child performing as close to age appropriate as possible. An occupational therapist will tailor the intervention plan specific to the needs of the child.

Does your child exhibit any of the following symptoms?

  • picky eating

  • sleep disorders

  • difficulty in self-calming

  • frequent mood changes

  • unawareness of other people

  • difficulties toilet training

  • excessive fidgeting

  • excessive climbing, jumping and/or crashing

  • sucking and/or biting clothing, fingers, pencils

  • aversion to specific textures, lights, smells or tastes

  • overreaction or withdrawal from touch

  • over or under-sensitivity to pain

  • over or under-sensitivity to loud noises

  • slow, under-reactive and/or uncoordinated movements

  • impulsiveness

  • difficulty following motor commands

  • difficulty with age-appropriate transitions

The therapists at ITTS for Children follow the theoretical background of the DIRFloortime® model of intervention. This framework is based on the understanding that each child and the circumstances that surround him or her are unique. The DIR® aspect of the model serves as an assessment tool for planning intervention. It combines an understanding of where the child is at developmentally, what the child's individual sensory strengths and needs are,  which are the child's most important relationships, and how to empower those relationships to serve as the primary driving vehicle behind encouraging the child's development. The Floortime® aspect of the model is both the practice and philosophy of the intervention. Floortime®, unlike traditional models of intervention, does not focus on specific skills and rote behaviors: speech, motor or cognitive skills are not addressed in isolation. Rather, it addresses these areas through its focus on emotional development. The goal of the model is to construct healthy foundations for greater social, emotional and intellectual capacities. The model aims to do this by following the child's natural emotions and interests while at the same time challenging the child toward a stronger capacity to relate, communicate and learn. This approach has been shown to be essential for enabling the various parts of the brain to work together to scaffold successively higher levels of growth. Click here to read more about Floortime®. Click here to read research about the efficacy of the DIRFloortime® model.